Steve Carell: 2015 Best Actor contenders

steve carell foxcatcher 600x338
As you folks all know by now, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions (including my own) at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen in six months, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about who and what will be in contention. To help out in that regard, I’m running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.

Today I’m continuing with arguably the biggest of the acting categories…Best Actor.

Here are the ten thespians that I have in play for Best Actor, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:

1. Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) – I tried to stay away from this obvious pick early on, but after the phenomenal reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival, it’s silly not to have Carell in your top spot. There’s a small chance he could go Supporting in order for Foxcatcher to maximize potential nominations/wins, but right now he’s the clear frontrunner here. It’d be folly to bet against him at this point.

2. Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice) – I think we can all agree that Phoenix will win an Oscar one day, it’s just a matter of when. With his second collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, an opportunity is front and center, provided of course that the material isn’t too out there for the average Academy member. We shall see, but rightt now you have to at least be considering him heavily.

3. Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) – The other leading man to really benefit from Cannes reviews, Spall seems more likely than not to score his first nomination for this biopic. Some have speculated that he could really challenge for the win too. I don’t quite see that happening, but hey…stranger things have certainly happened. Spall is probably the only person besides Carell that’s closing in a lock for a nomination this early.

4. Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) – Affleck is still without an acting nod, but he’s got a strong chance at one here in David Fincher’s latest. He’s going to wind up with a nom for a performance of his sooner or later, so perhaps voters will get on board with this one. If not, maybe they’re just waiting for the next time he gets behind the camera as well?

5. Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) – At one point I had a hunch that O’Connell could wind up winning the whole thing. I’ve backed off that somewhat, since he could potentially not even get nominated, but I do have him as a bigger contender than most. The part he’s playing in Angelina Jolie’s likely awards juggernaut is plenty baity, so it’ll just be up to him to nail the role.

6. Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) – After missing out on a nomination last year, Isaac looks to again be in play this year with the latest flick from J.C. Chandor, a man who’s likely going to be an Academy favorite before long. Isaac should score a nod sooner rather than later, so keep a close eye on his performance here. He’s going to hang around all season.

7. Gael Garcia Bernal (Rosewater) – If Jon Stewart’s debut is as powerful as it very well might be, then there’s no reason why Bernal won’t be in heavy contention for this baity drama. A nom might be more likely than some realize, particularly if Stewart is half as good a filmmaker as he is a satirical voice in comedy. Stay tuned on this one, as it could become a huge contender or a pretender in the blink of an eye…

8. Michael Keaton (Birdman) – An offbeat choice for sure, Keaton is overdue for a citation and will have a rare leading role to play with here. Many of my colleagues are higher on his chances than I am, but I do think that he’ll have a chance to score a nomination if he blows voters away. He could very well turn into a critic’s favorite this year.

9. Robert Downey, Jr. (The Judge) – The man they call RDJ hasn’t been doing drama much of late, but a return here could lead to some real acclaim for Downey. He’s yet to win an Oscar, so I don’t think the Academy is in a hurry to nominate him again without giving him the statue, but that could change depending on how the movie itself turns out. I’m very interested in how this one shapes up for him.

10. Jeremy Renner (Kill the Messenger) – A trendy pick right now for a nomination, I’m holding back slightly on Renner until I get a better feel for his movie, but it’s distinctly possible that he could even contend for the win if the material is up to par. Don’t fall asleep on Renner and his chances. He could shoot to the top of this list before too long…

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans commentary here) for Best Actor:

11. Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) *Could go Supporting
12. Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game)
13. Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes) *Could go Supporting
14. Adam Sandler (The Cobbler or Men, Women, & Children)
15. Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) *Could go Supporting
16. Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)
17. Jonah Hill (True Story)
18. Brad Pitt (Fury)
19. James McAvoy (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them)
20. Miles Teller (Whiplash)

Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, just sans commentary as well:

21. Al Pacino (Mangelhorn)
22. Bradley Cooper (Serena)
23. Tom Hardy (The Drop or Locke)
24. Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar)
25. Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up)
26. Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again)
27. Michael Fassbender (Frank or MacBeth)
28. Anton Yelchin (5 to 7)
29. Tobey Maguire (Pawn Sacrifice)
30. Eddie Redmayne (Theory of Everything)

That’s what the Best Actor race could very well be made up of folks. Stay tuned next week for my look at the Best Actress race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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